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Challenges about going to university

Olivia is a 17 year old Sixth form student currently studying at Darrick Wood School in Orpington. She is currently studying History, English and Photography at A Level. After school she plans to go to university.

Here Olivia talks about her challenges, issues, problems and successes she has in her life and the decisions she needs to make about going to university.

“My greatest challenge when leaving school will probably be starting university, I am unfathomably terrified and also incredibly excited about it. I am torn between moving away or staying at home and even the right course is puzzling me- eek!

In terms of university, I have just this weekend applied for my firm and insurance choices, although looking at potential universities proved to be tougher than I’d initially anticipated.

When it came to writing –the dreaded- personal statement, it took me a good few drafts to perfect it! I started off listing the basic points- my education history, interests and obviously, my reasons for interest in my chosen course.

I gradually then built that into statement form, and added flamboyant words, and rather embarrassingly ‘bigged’ myself up a bit. At first it sounded pretty bland and basic (trust me, the amazing personal statements that come up on Google aren’t written overnight) but after several timely drafts and a great deal of assistance from my subject teachers and head of years- it turned out pretty well (I think).

When it comes to selling yourself to potential universities, it’s very important to obviously highlight your talents, characteristics and skills but also hugely important to tell the truth- I heard a story about a guy that said he had a huge interest in cake baking- but when it came to the interview knew nothing really about it (as you can imagine that was probably pretty awkward)!

It’s also important to show your interest in the course you are applying to, try to summarise your interest in it – whilst also highlighting some of your experience with the subject (for e.g. if English, books you’ve read and enjoyed, your own history of the subject etc.).

With regards to getting into the university I wanted to go to, it proved quite a long and winding situation. Obviously, one of the central things universities look at when looking at personal statements are AS grades- unfortunately during my AS levels my English exam was under marked by 2 grades due to a poor exam board- leaving me with a D when now (after a resit) I should have been on an A.

This (I imagine) affected me getting into two of my top university choices of Leeds and Nottingham – especially as in all my other subjects I had received A’s. Fortunately, however two of my other crucial choices (Liverpool and Goldsmiths) offered me places- so it was not all bad!

Since applying for universities and art colleges my friends and I have been faced with various problems that, of course we did not expect in the process. For example, as well as the expected problems of funding for accommodation and finance, there is overcoming the initial problem of choosing where you want to be.

I was, and still am torn between leaving home or going away. I have now decided that my first choice is to be Liverpool University (a long long way away!) and my second choice is Goldsmiths in London a lot closer plus I would be living at home meaning the expense of accommodation would not be important.

However, saying that if I did go to Goldsmiths, would the fact I would be living at home make me less prone to the ‘university experience?’ and would I mix with as many people? The choices and decisions seem to be endless.

One of my closest friends is applying to art college and has no choice but to live at home during her foundation year, as she would be given no support for accommodation or living as her course is only foundation- limiting her to certain colleges and universities.

When it comes to funding for my university accommodation and living expenditure, a lot will come down to student loans, beneficial at the time but the fact they will of course add up into quite a sum of debt is quite scary, although I am not expected to pay them back until I am earning over a certain amount (a small relief I suppose).

This means I need to start saving now, and due to the fact university costs are going to shoot up in the next year means any hopes of a potential gap year, or year out are minimal, as in 2012 I am far less likely to be able to afford going!”

What challenges are you facing about going to university?

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Deciding on which subjects to study for GCSE

“My name is Lily and I am currently studying at Blackfen School for girls. At the moment I’m learning main subject’s Maths, English, Science and others. I have not picked my options yet, but I’m thinking of taking cookery, media studies and photography.

I like these subjects, photography lets me express who I am and what I do, like if I’m out with my friends I will try to take as many spontaneous snaps as possible. I also enjoy media because … it is a mix of learning, how to sell something, using adverts in magazines, television etc., and creating stories and seeing how authors buy the readers attention.

I have asked my Mum for advice but also my Dad and Grandad had a bit of input but not much. I think not knowing what I want to do when I am older set’s me back but also gives me an advantage.

As well as school I like doing things with my friends, like going out to parties and outings. Fashion also catches my eye with what comes in and out and who is wearing what. Music is a big part of my life I mainly listen to R’n’B but I’m open to any types of music and like it all, apart from really heavy metal rock as I feel like my ears are going to fall off.

There has been issue’s deciding my options. My school told us we would not be picking our options ourselves that they were choosing them for us. These were: French Geography/History and one of our choices.

It works out to be roughly 15 GCSE’s including my option. They have also included a twilight option which is basically studying another subject of our choice 2 days after school every week for 1 hour and I am considering doing this because of the subjects I am doing would not have been my choice.

This caused uproar with students and parents. So calling them my options was silly because I was not getting any option. When we were not allowed choice of our own I spoke to a lot of girls who all said the same, that they were angry and frustrated. I asked my friends their opinions and this is what they said…

Chloe said “I felt we should get more option as they were called OPTIONS!”

Molly was “Annoyed because it wasn’t fair, they are not the ones studying them for the next 2 years.”

Emily commented “I wasn’t overly bothered as I knew it would help me in the future.”

Maddy said “It wasn’t our option anymore it was the schools, or who ever made this choice.”

I think the same as most of my friends as it was not fair. From my point of view not knowing what I want to do or be when I am older doesn’t affect anything. Just doing things that I enjoy and will be doing, for mainly the rest of my life. But by others making decisions for me it’s like people choosing my life path and guiding me in ways I do not want to go.

At this stage in school our choices have changed yet again and after protesting about not having our own free choice the school caved in and gave us our rights to our GCSE choices. There are pro’s and con’s to this because picking your options is difficult because your picking the street we go down, but its nicer than having no option at all and having someone picking the street you go down for you.

When we got our options back 80% of girls chose the baccalaureate anyway which consists of French Geography or History which we were made to take originally!

Making my decision will be tough. Scary stuff picking my path in life.

What issues are you facing when deciding on your GCSE options?

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How do you keep motivated to do your studies?

“Hello, my name is George I am 14 and 7 days old and I go to Darrick Wood School in Orpington, where I live. I like technology, my PS3 and have recently started karate. I really enjoy comedy and watch improvisational comedy shows such as Fast and Loose on T.V. I listen to most types of music, but my favourite genre is indie rock and some of my favourite bands are Surfer Blood, The Vaccines, Arcade Fire and The XX. I support Arsenal and have been to see them about 7 times at the amazing Emirates Stadium and once at Highbury.

I am studying all of the core subjects at present, but for my options I have chosen geography, ICT, Business Studies, and French. I am good at ICT and Geography and find them quite easy. I like ICT and business because I would eventually like to move onto accounting or something related.

I like to think that by trying hard at school and completing homework will motivate me into achieving the grades I want, which will help me into a successful future. I get at least a piece of homework daily, and aim to do it as soon as I get it to avoid it piling up, although I do have the tendency to leave it last thing on a Sunday, which I wish to work on. I feel it will help me prepare for my GCSE’s next year, and by doing my work now will help me to stay on top when I get more next year.

My family encourage me to complete my homework, and correct any errors I may make, from spelling errors to additions I could add to make my piece better. They influence me to do research and study for school, as they want me to do as well as I can do and achieve my potential.

I feel I have all the support I need from school and at home to keep me motivated with my studies. The teachers are always there for me to speak to at school, whether I have a personal problem or trouble with school work. I also have a very supportive family, and a sister in sixth form who having done her GCSE’s is able to guide me if need be.”

How do you motivate yourself to study?

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Balancing school work with out of school activities

George is 14 and goes to Darrick Wood School in Orpington. He has already chosen geography, ICT, Business Studies and French for his GCSE options. George tells about balancing school work with out of school activities.

“I think it is important to prioritise school work with outside of school activities. I think it is important to spend time with friends and family because I have fun with them and joke around and enjoy socialising.

I do however think studying is important and think there should be a school life balance so you’re not always doing one thing. I do like going on my PS3 as it means I get to play with my friends and I also enjoy the games on there because they show my interests, such as football.

The only problem with doing things such as karate and riding my bike are they do take up a lot of time and take dedication and a lot of practise, which I sometimes find hard to balance.

Studying also helps me get my good grades which means I am put in the right sets for my GCSE’s which are important as qualifications.

When I am with my friends, there are lots of places to go such as Bromley, the park, their house but there could be more places to go for people my age, such as youth clubs. Although I can go to these places, there are not that many other places within the area in which I live without having to go out of the way on buses or trains.”

How do you balance your school work with out of school activities?